“We never argue, my wife and I; because she can shoot straighter and faster than I can.” – Petros Solomon (Aster Yohannes’ husband)
Aster Yohannes has been a prisoner of conscience, held at an undisclosed location by the government of Eritrea since December 2003.
Born in Asmara, Aster Yohannes was a 2nd year student of Electrical Engineering at the Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia when she joined the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in 1979.
After an initial 6-month military training, she took computer training course and was assigned to work the lines at Amberbeb military office. She was there until 1986 when she joined the Haylitat (combatant forces). In 1989, Aster Yohannes got married to Petros Solomon, an influential member of the EPLF and the couple have four children.
In 1995, four years after Eritrea’s defeat of Ethiopia and subsequent independence, Aster Yohannes took an appointment with the Sales Department of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, serving as deputy-head, and later head of the fisheries department before leaving in 1999.
Aster Yohannes’ education had been on hold since she left AAU to join the struggle for Eritrea’s freedom and in January 2000, she left for the US on a UN-funded scholarship to study marketing at the University of Phoenix, Arizona.
On September 18, 2001, Petros Solomon, Aster Yohannes’ husband was arrested and imprisoned by the Eritrean government for being a signatory to a letter written by a group known as the G-15, demanding change and democratic reforms. His whereabouts as well as other member of the group who were also arrested and detained without trial has been unknown since then.
Following this incident, Aster Yohannes requested that the Eritrean government allow her four children to travel to the US, but the government refused. In 2003, after her studies she returned to Eritrea on the written assurance of the Eritrean ambassador to the US, Girma Asmerom of her safety.
On December 11, on arrival at the Asmara International airport, Aster Yohannes was arrested without as much a chance of seeing her children who had come to welcome her. She was taken away and her exact whereabouts her unknown until this day, over twelve years after.
In July, 2009 Aster Yohannes and Petros Solomon’s four children attempted to flee the country with the aid of some relatives. However only the last born Maaza who was 11 at the time managed to cross the border with her maternal grandmother. The other three; Simon who was the oldest at 19 and the twins, Hannah and Zeray who were both 17 were caught and returned to Asmara.
Afro Tourism® salutes the courage of this African heroine, loving wife, dedicated mother, freedom fighter and city icon and national hero (although the present Eritrean regime does not seem to agree), Aster Yohannes.
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